Hartnett's Sex Sabbatical
When I first experienced "40 Days and 40 Nights" on the big screen back in 2002, I absolutely loved it and thought it was hilarious. Maybe this was due to the then cinematic trend for juvenile, teen sex comedies such as "American Pie" or maybe it was because I was just very juvenile. But over the subsequent years my enjoyment of "40 Days and 40 Nights" has certainly waned as either I have outgrown these sorts of movies or that "40 Days and 40 Nights" although still quite fun is in fact a limp, one joke movie which is very repetitive. Somehow I think it maybe the latter as when I look at my DVD collection I realise that I have an inordinate amount of juvenile movies.
Poor Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett - Halloween H20), having been dumped by his beautiful ex some 6 months ago, he is still struggling to get over her. Not that he suffers from lack of opportunity, as Matt's good looks and boyish charm makes him a hit with the ladies, it's just that every time his date moves into the bedroom, he becomes a flop. In an attempt to rectify his problem, he decides that he will give up all forms of sex and self gratification for 40 days. But when his room mate learns of his sex sabbatical, things take a turn for the worse as he becomes the focus of everyone's attention as they start to gamble on when he will crumble and give in to temptation. Things are made even worse when Matt meets the beautiful Erica (Shannyn Sossamon - Catacombs) and as their friendship grows he struggles to explain to her about his self inflicted celibacy without sounding like a religious nut or a sex addict.
As I have come to expect with most modern comedies, the storyline to "40 Days and 40 Nights" takes a huge backseat as the movie tries to please the audience with humour. This is all fine and well when the humour is varied and of a decent standard, but sadly "40 Days and 40 Nights" is a one gag movie with just a smattering of story.
The main idea behind "40 Days and 40 Nights" is the premise of someone giving up all forms of sex for 40 days, not so unbelievable until you put into the situation of the movie where the person giving up the sex is a good looking twenty something man who has an eye for the ladies, at which point the idea becomes a little far fetched. Fortunately "40 Days and 40 Nights" has a couple of supporting storylines which although enormously underused add a little depth to the movie. The most important of these is the blossoming relationship between Matt and Erica which starts off being highly entertaining and imaginative as they explore a relationship which is not all about the physical attraction. Sadly the director must have got the wobbles as this element became a bystander to the juvenile humour. Also adding to the storyline is Matt's brother who is a trainee priest but who also seems to be struggling with abstaining from sex, especially as Matt constantly confesses his sexual problems to him. Again this is hugely under worked but is a fun sideline to the main story.
Where "40 Days and 40 Nights" really falters, is on the comedy front as this really is a one gag movie revolving around sex. Although the humour starts off well, and for the first 20 minutes or so is genuinely amusing, by the umpteenth time we watch Matt struggle to resist the temptations of his sexy office workers it becomes pretty boring. So much so that at times the movie makers have resorted in abandoning the humour and relying on the raw effectiveness of tits and ass to titillate the audience. This is definitely a movie geared towards a teen audience and in being so looses a lot of appeal to an older audience. In some ways this could be compared to "The 40 Year Old Virgin", but a much watered down, junior version.
The problems do not stop at the humour as the characters and cast bring a whole new set of problems. The most annoying of these comes in the form of Josh Hartnett as the lead, he may fit the character of a good looking twenty something perfectly but his performance comes over as distinctly stiff and wooden. For the majority of the movie he looks ill at ease with the script, it is only when he is sharing screen time with co-star Shannyn Sossamon that his performance actually picks up. In fact Shannyn Sossamon's performance is one of the few positive things which can be drawn from this movie, as not only does her beauty light up the screen but her characterisation and delivery of dialogue is head and shoulders above everyone else's.
Somehow finding a middle ground is Paulo Costanzo as Matt's room mate. Although his performance is far from wooden, his character is rather 2 dimensional and in beings so is quite boring. The same can be said for the rest of the characters as not a single one has any life to them.
Whether "40 Days and 40 Nights" was originally planned as a teen sex comedy I am not sure, but director Michael Lehmann has definitely turned it into one. Not only has he filled it with good looking young stars and sexual humour but he has also given it a snappy modern soundtrack which keeps it moving along at a reasonable pace.
What this all boils down to is that as where once I really liked "40 Days and 40 Nights", now it's just another average teen movie. Yes it is still an enjoyable, fun movie but sadly lacks the style and more importantly the humour of other comedies, most notably "The 40 Year Old Virgin".